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Contents

Section Contents
Overview 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 High Integrity High Pressure (HIHP) Casting Processes Heat Treatment & Temper Designations for SSM and Squeeze Casting Chemical, Mechanical & Physical Properties of Semi-Solid & Squeeze Casting Engineering and Design: Coordinate Dimensioning Engineering and Designing: Geometric Dimensioning Additional Guidelines Semi-Solid and Squeeze Casting Examples Commercial Practices Glossary 1 17 23 55 105 141 151 165 183

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NADCA Standards for Semi - Solid and Squeeze Cast Processes / 2009

Overview
Weight reduction has been a major focus of many industries over the past decade or more. The automotive industry for example has concentrated on downsizing to meet governmental, marketing and performance pressures. To accomplish targeted weight reductions, the carmakers have increasingly looked to the use of aluminum and magnesium alloys. Additionally, the automakers, along with other industries, are investigating new and developing processes for casting aluminum and magnesium components. These processes offer near-net shape capability, improved strength, and excellent ductility, along with the pricing structure required to meet automakers needs. The two processes that have already met target production needs and, as their technologies further develop, will continue to expand their applications, are Squeeze Casting and Semi-Solid Metal Casting (SSM). Each of these two processes has been through a typical development process, including examination and improvement by the academic community, the normal trial and error of the first entrepreneurs and, finally, the risk acceptance by the first practitioner and consumers. Each process has now progressed beyond this initial stage and are now rightfully classed production ready and a number of parts produced by each process are incorporated in current automotive models around the world, as well as being used by a number of other industries. While all of the current squeeze casting applications utilize aluminum alloys, both aluminum and magnesium components are being commercially produced by semisolid casting. In addition, copper, zinc, and to a limited degree, ferrous alloys have also been cast in each of these processes. Further, research work is ongoing on a variety of materials and process improvements around the world. However, since aluminum and magnesium have played a major role in the development of these two processes, what follows is most applicable to the squeeze and semi-solid casing of these two metals.

Process Definition
The following definition has been accepted by the North American Die Casting Association as applying to squeeze casting, and which also applies in principle to many of the semi-solid metal casting processes. A casting process employing relatively slow ingate flow velocities, minimum flow turbulence and high pressure applied throughout solidification to consistently produce high integrity castings capable of solution heat treatment without blistering. While there are fundamental differences between squeeze casting and SSM casting, the key phrases of the definition which differentiate these two processes from all other casting processes apply to both as follows: FILL The actual filling of the cavity can be accomplished at a wide range of speeds; however, tight control over the injection process to avoid air entrapment due to turbulence is essential. ii
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TURBULENCE Both processes are designed to achieve minimum porosity and entrainment of oxides; therefore, turbulence during metal flow is to be avoided at all costs. PRESSURE Through the use of some hydraulic mechanism, pressures in excess of 2,900 psi (20MPa) and as high as 25,000 psi (175MPa) (equipment dependent) are applied to the material in the die cavity during solidification to feed solidification shrinkage. INTEGRITY The presence of porosity, either gas or shrinkage, degrades or reduces the integrity of castings. By eliminating porosity, or at least maintaining it at the lowest levels, the quality of castings produced by these two processes compares favorably with other high integrity forming processes, e.g., low pressure permanent mold and its variations, forging, extruding. CONSISTENCY It has been demonstrated that these two processes are capable of minimizing variability from part to part and from run to run. SOLUTION TREATMENT The majority of parts produced by these two processes are heat treated to maximize their tensile properties and fatigue life. The ability to heat treat without blistering requires the highest internal integrity.

Process Variants
SQUEEZE CASTING The key element of this process is that casting begins with molten metal. The molten metal is injected into a metallic die and held, under pressure until solidification is complete. SEMI-SOLID METAL CASTING The key element here is that the actual casting process begins with a semi-solid metal slurry processed in such a way that the solid portion (alpha phase) is in the form of globules uniformly dispersed in liquid (usually eutectic), producing free flowing but viscous fluid behavior. In both squeeze and semi-solid metal casting, the major process variants are: DIRECT The pressure is applied directly to the metal (liquid or semi-solid from a hydraulically activated source). This is generally referred to as direct squeeze casting or semi-solid forging (SSF). INDIRECT Pressure is transmitted from the hydraulic source through a runner system to the metal being solidified in a die cavity.

Background
The two processes have dissimilar histories, both in time and in the maturing cycle. 1. Squeeze Casting The principle that pressure applied to molten metal during solidification will enhance its properties has been known for over 150 years. In fact, the original patent was applied for in England in 1819. The Russians have used direct squeeze casting for piston manufacturing for over 100 years. However, the process did, in effect, lie somewhat
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dormant until the 1970s when first, direct squeeze casting was reactivated for several defense applications as well as for pistons, and later indirect squeeze casting was used to make aluminum automobile wheels for a Japanese car manufacturer. The fact that squeeze casting could provide essentially porosity free castings surfaced at the same time that the auto industry was searching for ways to reduce weight at minimum cost. The process swept rapidly across Japan over the next ten years replacing iron parts, i.e., control arms, steering knuckles, cylinder liners, pistons, engine supports, etc. A number of other industries also took advantage of the unique character of squeeze casting, i.e., bicycle, air conditioning, valve and pump, etc. Direct squeeze casting was first introduced to the US by Doehler-Jarvis in the 1960s, and has been used since the late 1980s in the United States and Europe for piston manufacture, particularly ceramic inserted. Then in 1990 the first indirect squeeze operation was installed in the United States. Today there are in excess of 300 squeeze machines installed worldwide producing a variety of components ranging in size between as little as 3.5 ounces (100 grams) to a crossmember weighing 31 pounds (14 kilograms). 2. Semi-Solid Metal Casting Semi-solid metal (SSM) casting has also been practiced in some form for over 100 years. However SSM casting as we know it today evolved out of a series of studies performed by Professor M.C. Flemings and his students at MIT in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was noted that when the normal dendritic microstructure was modified to a non-dendritic, spheroidal structure, the resulting material had a remarkably low shear strength even at relatively high solid fractions - it became thixotropic. The resulting quality and integrity of parts formed using the semi-solid process were evident in improved mechanical properties. Further, it became obvious that the process could be applied to a number of different alloy systems. The original MIT patent rights were eventually obtained by Alumax, Inc., a primary aluminum producer, now a part of ALCOA. Beginning in the very late 1980s and early 1990s, Alumax started producing semi-solid parts for automotive applications. When key original patents expired in 1992, the commercial application of the process rapidly expanded around the world. The semi-solid process originally commercialized by Alumax involved the production of a pre-cast billet having the globular semi-solid microstructure. Slugs cut from these billets were re-heated to the semi-solid temperature range for casting. This process is referred to as thixocasting. Although thixocasting achieved commercial success, and is still in use today, the pre-cast billet approach was considered costly by many endusers. Therefore, alternate approaches to semi-solid casting have been developed, where the semi-solid slurry is generated directly from the liquid. These processes are referred to as rheocasting, and there are a number of different variations in commercial production or under development around the world. In addition, a specialized semi-solid process for magnesium alloys called thixomolding has been commercialized, and this process uses a press similar to an injection molding machine. All three processes (thixocasting, rheocasting and thixomolding) are in commercial production making parts for a number of markets, including automotive, motor cycle, electronics, iv
NADCA Standards for Semi - Solid and Squeeze Cast Processes /2009

aerospace and sporting goods. Similar to squeeze casting, about 300 semi-solid machines are installed around the world producing aluminum and magnesium parts ranging in size from a tenth of an ounce (few grams) to more than 22 pounds (10 kilograms).

Conclusion
Both processes, Squeeze Casting and Semi-Solid Metal (SSM) Casting, have demonstrated the ability to produce high integrity components for a range of industries. Both processes are being practiced, in some form, in Europe, North America and the Asia. There are still some economic hurdles to jump before either of these processes have universal acceptance; however, significant strides in cost reduction have been made over the past several years and further gains can be expected in the future.

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NADCA Standards for Semi - Solid and Squeeze Cast Processes / 2009